DTC for small, older, patient populations

SUMMARY: TV doesn’t make sense for smaller and older patient populations. DTC marketers should be thinking digital and aligning execution with their needs.

BMS has been advertising Opdivo via DTC TV ads but does TV really make sense? It’s estimated that 228,820 adults (116,300 men and 112,520 women) in the United States will be diagnosed with lung cancer. Lung cancer makes up about 13% of all new cancer diagnoses. Most newly diagnosed patients are 60+ years old and one would think TV might be a great way to target them but I would argue that TV for such a small patient population is a waste of money.

First lets look at older audiences:

Companies marketing to a senior demographic have traditionally put most of their time and money into offline media. There is a long-standing belief that people over 50 are either not on the internet at all or are only going onto sites such as AARP.org or WebMD.com. The fact of the matter is that seniors control 70% of America’s disposable income and they are far more web savvy than most people believe. Recent Studies show that in 2014, 70% of the 50-65 age bracket use the internet, while 38% of those over 65 years old go online. Of the “wired” seniors:

  • 94% use the internet for e-mail
  • 77% shop online
  • 71% are looking for health information
  • 70% use the internet to read news

The rate of senior Americans adopting social media is steadily increasing. For the first time, more than half of all online adults 65 and older (56%) use social media, Facebook in particular, according to Pew Research Center’s Social Media Update for 2014. This represents 31% of all seniors in the US. While these numbers may pale in comparison with the 18-29 (86%) and 30-49 (61%) groups, it should be noted that as of November 2008 (a short time ago) only 16% of the 50-64-year-old group and 4% of the 65+ group were using Facebook.

In other words they’re online and not just going to sites like AARP. Your website therefor should take this into consideration while targeting older patient populations.

Suggestions for making your website “senior-friendly” from Blue Fountain Media include:

  • Make sure your font size is large enough for easy reading. Laptops and most monitors are relatively small, making reading difficult for many seniors. I suggest a minimum of 12 point.
  • Keep the navigation as simple as possible.
  • Age appropriate photos and graphics. If you are trying to get an older audience to buy, then make them feel comfortable and welcome on your site.
  • Understand the market. Marketing to seniors is a sub-specialty. Most internet marketers tend to be younger and don’t quite understand the senior market. It makes sense to add at least one person to your marketing team that has experience working with senior consumers.
  • Create landing pages specifically targeted to the senior audience. If your online advertising is geared to attract a senior audience, then it makes sense to create a landing page or alternate home page specifically geared to that audience.

Challenges remain though

Unfortunately, seniors are also the target of scams and false online health information. Older adults may tend to either lack the skills and experience necessary to weed through bad health information. During the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, individuals 65+ years were twice as likely to be exposed to fake news stories on Twitter and seven times more likely to share fake news on Facebook than 18- to 29-year olds.

The best way to “market” to older consumers is to earn their trust and show that you care. This means that product websites should engage older online health seekers by understanding what THEY want and need. It’s also extremely important to separate content intended for caregivers from content for older consumers.

Finally, don’t ever make the mistake of thinking of aging Boomers as “senior citizens.” They hate that categorization. To them, 60 is the new 40. They are more active and not content to stay at home and sit in the rocking chair.